once a day – DDXXVIII – and beyond

When I heard I was only allowed out to exercise once a day the chorus of this old heartbreak song popped into my mind.

You know there’s been a revolution? You know there’s been a revolution  when the Government calls an indefinite general strike. All that’s left is to decide the winners and losers. The Dunwich Dynamo is two moons away, what will it be like in these post-revolutionary days?

In the current context – regardless of the detail of any regulation and guidance in existence on the fourth of July – it’s irresponsible to go beyond your comfort zone. In summer 2020 London, Essex and Suffolk are – alas – not soft country. If you are unsure of your ability to look after yourself stay near home.

Part of the original raison d’etre of the Dunwich Dynamo is to encourage people who like riding bikes but are intimidated by the idea of riding a ‘long’ way to be more ambitious. A function of the Dunwich Dynamo is to disclose cycle-touring’s dirty little secret…
…it’s not that hard.

The raft of ancillary events that nowadays support and profit from the annual pilgrimage; the Southwark Cyclist’s coach-convoy, daybreak opening at the Flora Tea Room’s, food and drink all night long, all along the road, have made the event even simpler for inexperienced riders.

This July these support events may not be legal, practical or profitable. It seems likely that these services won’t be available this year?

A ride from London to the Suffolk Coast alone – or in company of other household members – a swim and a ride home is an innocent pleasure.

If you want to ride a Dunwich Dynamo there are other dates close to the full moons on fifth of June, fifth of July, third of August, second of September and first of October. Temporal distancing will allow anyone who can ride an unsupported Dunwich Dynamo out-and-home from their safe-house, well within their comfort-zone, to enjoy this delight discretely  – and discreetly – without adding to their own, on anyone else’s, risk.

By July I hope we may be permitted to ride with trusted comrades kept at a safe distance. Think of aerodynamics when calculating this – at high speed, in the plume of turbulence trailed by another rider – you risk contagion at a distance considerably greater than an arbitrary two metres.

If you’re a hard rider feel free to do whatever you consider prudent. If you want to ride a Dunwich Dynamo don’t expect, or ask for, food, water, any pastoral or logistical support. And don’t get booked or arrested, unless you want to, in anticipation of an interesting court case.

The DD is a cycle-touring event. In it’s purest form cycle-touring is based on self-reliance and spontaneous decision-making. ‘Cancelling’ the Dunwich Dynamo is as preposterous as cancelling Christmas, Ramadan or Halloween. The idea that it’s even possible relies on the widespread misconception that somebody ‘organises’ it. It’s a tradition that belongs to everyone – including YOU – and is owned by nobody.

Next year the July full moon will be on a Saturday night.

Dunwich Dynamo XXIX 24 July 2021.

dunwich dynamo XXII

Was stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France, from Cambridge to London, an homage to the Dunwich Dynamo? Of course it was.

The great frivolity, the twenty-second edition of the Dunwich Dynamo, runs tomorrow night so it’s just possible you’ve time to put a data display on your bars, toss some ‘factor 50’, sandwiches and budgie-smugglers in your sun-bleached, Carradice, Longflap and head for London Fields. More likely you’re still short of sleep so why not turn off your computer and take a nap? You can read this later.

Essex sections of the traditional route – Epping, Moreton, Fyfield, Finchingfield – are still glowing from sanctification by the passage of Le Grand Boucle. ‘VEHICLES PARKED HERE WILL BE TOWED’ signs were conspicuous while riding the DD route-sheet reconnaissance a couple of weeks ago. Was stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France, Cambridge to London SW1, an homage to the Dunwich Dynamo? Of course it was.

photo: ms. rif

Ignoring this sprinters’ benefit on my doorstep I took a spin – via Cambridge – to Yorkshire for Sunday’s classic GC shake-down. Two hundred miles of riding slowly are the perfect warm-up for the task of witnessing a big, international road-race. It slows down your mind so you’re ready to wait – for hours – calmly.

The Tour de France was invented to sell newspapers. You don’t go out to watch it to see patterns. The point is to be there. It’s a spiritual thing.

As usual – almost – the best part was the publicity caravan that precedes the race. The Caravane publicitaire is at its best after a couple of weeks, once fatigue has turned its relentless participants into grinning zombies; but it’s still pretty spectacular, even on stage 2.

giant motorised packet of frozen chips climbs Holme Moss

The surreal parade, the trinkets flung to the crowd – who blithely risk their lives to retrieve worthless tributes among the speeding floats – show human organisation at its most base. The Caravan pub. is tacky, venal and vulgar. The perfect prelude to the fleeting passage of 197 unemployable, under-weight hypochondriacs, on whose, self-sacrifice, fortitude and unquestioning loyalty to an abstract ideal, the whole over-blown, mobile metropolis is based.

Monday afternoon; fast riders suffering in one direction.

Saturday night; a hedonistic beach-bum excursion rolls the other way.

Dunwich Dynamo logo
Dunwich Dynamo: Illustration by Jamie Wignall
 The entourage of the Le Tour is visible from space.

Thousands of pilgrims to the drowned city can pass like ghosts leaving no trace.

Dunwich Dynamo XXI; never mind how many hours, what about finesse?

Cycle-sport is perverse. If you want to go fast get a motor-cycle. The point of riding a push bike is to enjoy the journey.

In the days before, along the road, people keep asking how many are riding this year? My reply is always that nobody knows, nobody has to count. What if someone sets off from Cambridge, picks up the route near Sudbury and trundles out to the coast? Do they count as one, as a half or none? My concern is always with quality.

A point of the DD is getting inexperienced riders to raise their ambition, to understand that riding further is not that big a deal, that a ‘long’ journey is just a collection of short trips strung together. If – however – you inspire the naive and innocent into the darkness of Essex and Suffolk it’s good if there are some role-models around to give clues as to how it might be done with ease and style.

Weston Cafe congratulatory message - Dunwich Dynamo XXI

Weston Cafe congratulatory message

Dunwich Dynamo Twenty One – the first with rain and headwind combination – had no hint of moonlight at any time. Another first for 2013 was a complaint from a householder about noise in the small hours…

“I am sure you all had a lovely time cycling from London to Dunwich on Saturday/Sunday night – couldn’t have been a better night I shouldn’t think. However, I wonder if you could just ask the participants for next year just to think a little more about the people in the villages they pass through during the night.   We live right on a junction on the A****  in Suffolk about 20 miles from Dunwich in the village of *********** and the cyclists found it necessary to stop and shout directions to each other at the junction, which woke our dog and started him barking between 3am and 5am – thereby waking us.PLEASE do remember that Suffolk villages are usually quiet at night and neither we nor our dogs are used to night time noise.  In any case, surely it is only considerate to keep your voice down outside houses during the night. Sorry to raise this but a little consideration would be appreciated.”

…the complaint is not a ‘first’, every year there are a few, not all as polite and considered as this. The ‘first’ is that the junction described is two or three miles from the suggested route.

Repeating the messages – “don’t make noise near homes”, “don’t drop litter” –  like a stuck record, the problem is that the least imaginative people, the most likely to cause a nuisance, are the hardest to reach.

Quiet - Dunwich Dynamo XXI

Quiet

litter - Dunwich Dynamo XXI

litter

As years go by more and more people who live along the route are embracing the Dunwich Dynamo in a continental style. Pubs stay open late and fill their tills, residents sit out and watch the stream of fools pass, some run front-garden pop-ups, pushing coffee and bacon sandwiches in aid of charity and all-night fun. In Sudbury – just for example – the Horse and Groom, Weston’s Cafe and Torque Bikes all stayed open. People put up routing signs, and personal notices for locals who are making the trip. I heard a rumour that Anglia Railways now run extra bike capacity during the day before the ride for all the people coming in from Essex and Suffolk to join the great wave of lunatic joy.

Ddesign – Dunwich Dynamo XXI

It’s sad that DD supporters in Essex and Suffolk will have to deal with criticism from their neighbours annoyed by unnecessary noise, litter and loutish behaviour from nit-wit participants, the kind who imagine that riding 185 kms at their own pace is some kind of mighty achievement and give no thought to doing it like an adult, doing it with panache.

Thousands of people – almost all carrying wallets or similar cash receptacles – moving into countryside is cause for joy, an extra Christmas for hard-pressed country pubs, a chance for people from across the country, international visitors, to discover the pleasures of East Anglia. Many will return to further boost the rural economy. The fact that they do it on bikes puts minimal stress on infrastructure. If we conduct ourselves like adults, ten-thousand can go through like ghosts, leaving no trace creating no disturbance.

There’s no excuse for noise, or litter, or pissing near homes. It was a hot night so more sleeping people had more windows open. There was no moon and maybe under-equipped pilgrims needed to gather under street-lights? Anyone who knows what they’re doing carries a headlight for punctures, reading directions and sign-posts, wardrobe changes or cigarette rolling in the dark.

Part of the pleasure of cycle-touring is to stop. The best place is not in a sleeping village, that will likely be at the bottom of a hill with a climb on cooled legs to follow. Stop in the gateway of a farmers field on a hilltop and you can chat freely and get rolling again with minimum effort.

Cycle-sport is beautiful. You can learn a lot from studying, more from participating in, cycle-sport. But cycle-sport is perverse. If you want to go fast get a motor-cycle. The point of riding a push bike is to enjoy the journey. I’ve read plenty of first-person narratives of DDXXI. Some major on pain and suffering, which is boasting about how ineffective you are at riding a bike. Most – for no explained reason – tell how long the trip took. I prefer the ones that concentrate on style.

I have definite plans not to post next week but if you want to find out roughly where I am you can look here; https://londonedinburghlondon.com/lastseen/?rider_no=B60.

Reclaiming the earth

The fashion for one-way streets is long passed its sell-by-date.

  • A month of Sundays
  • A blue moon
  • A Sheffield flood

…add to any index of proverbial rare events a head-wind Dunwich Dynamo.

2013 – the legendary beach-party’s twenty-first edition – promises this unlikely happenstance.

The balmy North-Easter is good luck for those who like an extra portion, the bonus of a gentle ride back to London. There’s a relative shortage of back-wheel on the road home. Whatever your plans after the salt-water finish don’t forget the sunblock.

A further novelty for DDXXI is an extended cyclo-cross interlude, courtesy of Essex Highways who are renewing retaining walls and drainage on Wethersfield Road on the western approaches of Sible Hedingham and have built the kind of temporary runway that goes through beer tents in Belgian winter races.

photo 1photo 2 photo 3

photo 4
pictures: ‘mad woman from Sible Hedingham’

Last Friday, on the final check, I figured the ‘ROAD CLOSED’  and ‘DIVERSION’ signs which start 8 kilometres ahead of the works, on the exit of Wethersfield, were actually what are called – in progressive circles – these days ‘modal filters’, and that a pedestrian – even armed with a bike – would be able to force a route through without rope or crampons. When I finally reached the filter I walked through on the road with no trouble and it’s good to see that pedestrian access is maintained even if it’s considerably more elaborate now. If you’re on a tandem, and can’t get it through the gate, take the bags off and wait until enough fellow pilgrims are assembled to hoist it over without risking a hernia. Please make the negotiation quietly or the people in the house across the road will be disturbed.

LATE NEWS

Intelligence from Braintree District reports that – after a rash of complaints – the kissing gate has been removed. So we can pass EVEN MORE quietly.

Riders in pretentious half-human-half-machine footwear have the option to change into their beach shoes to yomp through the chicane. If you’re wearing shoes that don’t work for walking – and aren’t carrying a seaside change – you can follow the signed diversion via Gosfield and the A1017 and turn left at the Total garage in SH for the village hall, which will give you a bonus 10 kilometres at no extra cost; either that or turn round and go back to London because you’re not going to have much fun on the ghostly shingle of the Lost City in your stocking feet anyway.

A further, further novelty, new for 2013 – supposedly for a trial period but with no real chance of reversion – will be riding North on Mare Street, Narrow Way, Hackney Central, without transgressing a dopey Twentieth Century  prohibition on uphill cycle-traffic which was lifted earlier this year. Buses have lately been rerouted away from this human-scale shopping lane. The street is now much more convivial and more than twice as good for people on bikes.

One-way? No way!

Hackney Narrow Way is part of an old corridor whose line – or lines – are not only prehistoric they might (guidance from readers with palaeontological backgrounds very welcome) be pre-human?  Narrow Way, Broadway Market, Columbia Road are all on this line which connects London Bridge with the Lea Bridge Road; the lowest natural crossing points on the two great rivers. Powerscroft Road – which features in the DD’s early kilometres on the London side of the Lea – has also had a short one-way section recently returned to the default-setting, for cycle-traffic.

Two way operation makes roads easier to cross on foot, reduces the number of times you have to change lanes on a bike, makes it easier for bus passengers to find their stops and is probably more convenient for local motor-traffic. It’s better for everyone except the motor-fantasists who want the World remade as parody of car-racing circuits.

Thinking animals like us construct reality from theory. Some people abuse the privilege. The Twentieth Century vogue for one-way traffic systems can be interpreted as modifying the World to justify a prevailing assumption that automobile travel is quick and convenient even in urban areas. One-way operation always produces alienation. The days when you could rely on rolling into a town on a road named after the last one visited, find the town square and pick a road named after the next one on your itinerary may have gone but much of the infrastructure remains waiting to be reclaimed for our luxury use.

The Dunwich Dynamo – for example – aspires to historic desire lines and spends half it’s distance on roads named after their origin or destination settlements. Big holes are the gyration of Sudbury – how much sweeter to roll into the very centre of town and exit on East Street? – and the Eastern exit of Needham Market where Coddenham Road is cut to two stumps by the A14 running up the Gipping valley from Ipswich.

A fashion, a social movement – mass motorisation for example – may carry a lot of economic inertia. It may be so dominant that it’s widely treated as permanent; but nothing lasts forever. Time passes, ideas change, cities get washed away.

See you on London Fields, on the road or on the beach.

 

handbags and gladrags

Now we have an investment-quality, made-in-England musette, with both. You could even use the map to get to Harwich.

“Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.”

Victor Hugo

So far this season has seen the launch of…

Now we have an investment-quality, made-in-England musette, with both. You could even use the map to get to Harwich, for Hoek van Holland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Köln or Berlin.

The straps are attached at an angle so the bag rests stable on your back until you need an inner-tube or a banana.

French vocabulary is so poetic. The peloton, more glamorous than the bunch, a musette more refined than a bonk- or butty-bag. For best effect these last two are delivered in a gritty (pronounced ‘gritteh’) Northern accent, ideally in a moorland hailstorm.

A musette is a small folkloric bag-pipe, that gave it’s name to a style of French accordion music, and also – because of a supposed resemblance – to a road-racer’s feed bag, passed up by a soigneur, at a zone de ravitaillement.

The real things are disposable promotional items. Once the contents have been transferred to jersey pockets and bottle cages the musette is slung away to be retrieved as a trophy-relic by some devout witness.

“This scrap of cotton? It once held Laurent Jalabert’s fourth breakfast.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQKf0IOKXgI&version=3&feature=player_detailpage]

The DD bonk-bag is made to much more exacting standards – an item nobody would want to throw into a hedge. It’s screen-printed, with a timeless design, it will still work well and look great moon-bleached and faded, on DDXL in 2032.

Available on London Fields, on Saturday night, maybe on Dunwich Beach on Sunday morning, if somebody can be a bothered to haul stock over Essex and Suffolk.

also from Bikefix in WC2 by personal visit or mail-order.

Retail price = £20

Strictly limited edition.

You know you want one.

See you on London Fields, on the road or on the beach.

batteries not included

 

 

 

“If string will do the job use string.”

Mike Burrows

The Five-Bob data display.

 

You will need…

  • 1 Zip-tie
  • 1 Bulldog clip

Zip-ties – AKA cable-ties – can be purchased in bulk from electrical wholesalers in various lengths and weights. If you’re too tight to pay cash-money for a supply you can find a pirate sign – for example “FILM UNIT” –  cable-tied to a lamp-post and cut it down carefully. Cut the tie where it’s tail enters the head to leave the longest remnant possible.

Alternatively a fine blade can be inserted into the head to lever the ratchet spring open and unlock the tie in one piece. String also works and can be transferred easily between a fleet of machines.

Bulldogs come in all sizes. They are available at stationers. Choose one that suits your application.

Tie the bulldog clip to your handlebar stem, or any exposed cables where its contents will be easily visible on-the-fly.

That’s it.

If the clip tends to rattle on the bars while empty you can make an acoustic damping system using a small section of rubber sheet – cut from failed inner-tube – secured with more zip-ties or double-sided cellulose-based, pressure sensitive adhesive tape (Sellotape).

Use your data display to carry…

  • route-summary information – road numbers, places en-route etc.
  • shopping lists
  • destination addresses
  • flyers
  • maps

Works well with…

  • a plastic bag for rain-proofing
  • a head torch to read data in the dark

Also works with Twenty-first Century bikes.

problems of giantism (part 2)

Cycle sport is fascinating and glamourous. Most people don’t have the fortitude and humility for cycle sport with it’s grueling diet of pain, disappointment and humiliation. A road race – even at the bottom of the pyramid –  may have fifty starters, only one will win. In cycle-sport second place is also known as ‘first loser’.

the Cannibal on another good day

Cycle sport is fascinating and glamourous.

Most people don’t have the fortitude and humility for cycle sport with it’s grueling diet of pain, disappointment and humiliation. A road race – even at the bottom of the pyramid –  may have fifty starters, only one will win. In cycle-sport second place is also known as ‘first loser’.

Eddy Merckx once said  that:- “In racing, there are always more bad days than good.”

And he was Eddy Merckx.

There’s a category of person – almost all men – who love the frisson, the glamour, of cycle-sport but lack the courage, fortitude and humility required to participate. Some of these people enter events that are NOT races, then try to win them.

“Re: Dunwich Dynamo 4th / 5th July 2009

by *********** » Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:39 pm

Yes – it’ll be my fifth year (I DNF’d in 2007 due to the weather).

We’ll be leaving at 8pm and going like a bat out of hell. This may not be in the spirit of things, but it avoids having to pass hundreds of slower cyclists on dangerous roads, and the queues for food can be appallingly long if you get there late.”

Plenty to worry about in this exemplary gem pruned from the archive of an internet forum. The writer’s identity has been redacted.

No shame in not finishing, if you tried your best, better luck next year. Not finishing due to the weather – in 2007 there was a brisk tailwind, it rained during the night, which was warm, and the morning was fine and steamy – is the sign of an ill-equipped, ill prepared and callow rider. Not finishing a planned journey because of the weather, in England, in July, is pathetic.

I’m guessing the writer’s never held a racing license or pinned on a number to ride against the watch, that their idea of “like a bat out of hell” equates to a brisk but comfortable pace, and is a long way South of 40 kph?

These criticisms are matters of taste. The real embarrassment is the idea that they don’t want to overtake hundreds of slower cyclists on dangerous roads. Usually there are 364 and a half – this year one more – days when you can ride from Hackney to Dunwich without passing more than a dozen bike riders.

If you don’t want to meet other pilgrims why are you riding a social event?  None of the roads on the DD‘s recommended route are subject to avalanche, landslip or flash floods. If you find them more dangerous than you want them to be then you’re doing something very wrong.

last of the Flemish hard men?

An unwritten rule of cycle racing is ‘there must be blood”. In a race you’re expecting to take risks. As Sean Kelly sagely observed…

“You don’t think about hospital. You think about winning.”

Cycle-touring is different. Nobody is standing by to scrape you off the road and put you in an ambulance if you miscalculate. If the difference between success and failure is the width of a tyre you overslept or misread the ferry time-table. The point is to be reliable and efficient, to travel and to have fun.

The formal stop on the Dunwich Dynamo – this year at the delightfully secluded Sible Heddingham Village Hall – is to allow the luxury of running water and flush toilets. Hot drinks and a short menu are offered for sale to help cover the costs of opening and staffing this amenity. If you find the idea of queues ‘appalling’ fill your bottles, eat the food that you’re carrying and leave the rest for those who are less well prepared or more tolerant of waiting. If the food’s run out or the line is too long DON’T KVETCH. It will only draw attention to the fact that you’re lacking in the prime virtue of cycle travel SELF RELIANCE. Keep the place tidy.

The Dunwich Dynamo is a free event. It’s idiotic to float a free event and then complain if others use it to act out their harmless fantasies. If folk want to treat the Dunwich Dynamo as a road-race – and can somehow overlook the fact that it has no entry fee, no start time, no finish line, no prize list and no UCI ranking – and they manage not to endanger or inconvenience anyone but their own sorry selves where’s the harm?

In most jurisdictions bike racers are fined or disqualified for dropping litter. At the highest level, where a discarded bidon or empty musette will be fought over as if it were the blackened toe-nail of a medieval Christian saint, nobody minds. Debris is part of the show. In extreme instances…

…valuable equipment may be left behind in the frantic struggle to keep up.

Some people who’ve only seen bike racing on TV think it’s OK to drop litter so long as your bike has no mudguards, your riding as fast as you think you can go and your wearing a replica pro-team jersey. The truth is that affecting the reckless habits of a big time bike-racer on a free-to-enter touring ride makes you look like a DOOFUS.

If your cruising speed is North of 30 kph why not leave late and breeze through the field offering words of encouragement to the halt and the lame? A push on the uphills(ASK FIRST)? You might meet some nice people? If you find someone in trouble you may be able to offer help? There’s a surprisingly large number of people who think fitting a tyre is difficult, that a puncture is an emergency. Set a good example, remind people – softly – to be quiet in villages.

If you prefer to ride early and go as fast as possible remember your sweetie wrappers and dead tubes aren’t holy relics. If you drop them you put the future of the event in jeopardy. You carried them out, You take them home.

And make sure you’ve enough clothes to be warm on the beach in the small hours.

problems of giantism (part 1)

Cycle-sport is fascinating. You can learn a lot from studying it, even more from taking part; but – really -trying to go fast on a push-bike is perverse. If you want to go fast get a motorbike. When travel is voluntary there’s no problem with going slowly. If travel is a pleasure why would you want to get it over as quickly as possible? The real point of a push-bike is to go slowly.

Cycle-sport is fascinating. You can learn a lot from studying it, even more from taking part; but – really – trying to go fast on a push-bike is perverse. If you want to go fast get a motorbike. When travel is voluntary there’s no problem with going slowly. If travel is a pleasure why would you want to get it over as quickly as possible? The real point of a push-bike is to go slowly.
Going slowly means that –  if you want to make the kind of trip that can be drawn on an Ortleib 30th anniversay pannier, away from polar regions in Summer –  you’re going to spend some time riding in darkness.

Nowadays the Dunwich Dynamo has plenty of alliterative homage.

In twenty years riding all night has migrated from almost secret vice for lonely old men to become an established niche in the many-roomed mansion of bicycle-madness.

At this time of year some people email to ask: “How to register?” “Are there places left?” even “How much does it costs?” It’s more of a pleasure than a chore to explain to them that it’s just a ride to the coast. Turn up. Set off. Have fun.

When people ask “if I organise it?” I counter with an illustrative question who organises Christmas?

It just happens.

Jez Hastings – co-founder of the Dunwich Dynamo – rode the Centenary Paris-Brest in 1991. The Dynamo’s start – rolling out of a capital city in the evening –  is a self-conscious homage to that great event. The Dunwich Dynamo – like the Paris-Brest – now attracts a range of pop-up cafés along the route. These range from the long established professionals…

“Sirs

Your cycle event passes through the village of Peasenhall where I have a business called Emmett’s. We have been in operation since 1820 making traditional hams and bacon and held a Royal Warrant for over 35 years.

We have now opened up a cafe serving teas, coffees and light meals.This has proved to be very popular.The reason for my email is to highlight this service in respect of the Dunwich Dynamo and to see whether we could have a link to your site.

I look forward to hearing from you

Mark Thomas
EMMETT’S
www.ebacon.co.uk”

…to enthusiastic front-garden gazebo and camping-gaz amateurs.

The growth of pop-ups seems to be reaching a breakthrough but it’s not all positive.

“Patrick

Since I suggested the food stop at ********* I have been getting some very worrying feedback from local residents who are deeply unhappy at the behaviour of some of the riders who cause considerable and prolonged disturbance as they pass through the village, causing many folk a sleepless night. The intention was that our local Guides group run the food stop, as my daughter is in Guides and this was to raise funds for her work in ********, but I am very concerned that as we will present a fixed target for local resentment the risk of an unpleasant reaction on the night is too great for us to take. In view of this I have taken the decision to abandon the idea. This is obviously a great shame but even if there is no reaction on the night the blame for any disturbance will be laid at the door of Guides and my family, and this is something I cannot afford to risk.

Kind regards
*******”

This gracious withdrawl is a symptom of a persistent problem.

We all know riding a bike doesn’t make you a nice or sensible person. Some people are so dumb that – because they set off from Brixton, Shoreditch or Homerton and have only been riding a bike – they think they’re still in the inner-city deep in sleepy Suffolk. Others, following the modern delusion that riding a bike gently for 185 kilometres is some kind of ordeal, worthy of being sponsored to collect money for homeless pandas, don’t have the capacity to consider the feelings of others. Like hikers on the summit ridge of Everest shuffling grimly past the dead and dying they can’t think beyond their own survival.

Most of the persistent disturbance comes from distressed pilgrims debating navigation at junctions. Someone stops because they don’t know the way and aren’t following the route-sheet. Another clueless nitwit rocks up and they start a conversation. A third person arrives. The first decides it’s time to adjust their wardrobe or eat a sandwich, more come through, before you know it there’s an impromptu cocktail party going on.

Now don’t get me wrong. The Dunwich Dynamo is a social event, but there are plenty of rural lay-bys, isolated verges and moon-lit glades to stop for a snooze, a cigarette or even some frantic networking far removed from bedroom windows. The idea is to show control, for a thousand seasoned tourists to pass like ghosts leaving ne’er a banana skin to betray their stealthy passage.

Instructions on how to make a handy routing information holder for less than one pound will follow shortly.

If you’re planning to make the trip this year – why not? –  please set a good example, make it look easy and – softly – encourage others to do the same.

twenty years are gone

The following first appeared in ‘London Cyclist Magazine’ – without the hyper-text – in May 1998 as promotion for Dunwich Dynamo VI, when the DD was still a pay-to-enter event with routing signs and a location breakfast on arrival at Dunwich Heath. The DD is now a free, traditional event, like Christmas, only with less eating and more travel. Then there were a couple of hundred, now nobody has to count how many happy pilgrims pass. Some details of route and stops have changed and the road to Dunwich Heath is still hanging on against the hungry sea. Mostly it’s the same.

The following first appeared in ‘London Cyclist Magazine’ – without the hyper-text – in May 1998 as promotion for Dunwich Dynamo VI, when the DD was still a pay-to-enter event with routing signs and a location breakfast on arrival at Dunwich Heath. The DD is now a free, traditional event, like Christmas, only with less eating and more travel.

Then there were a couple of hundred, now nobody has to count how many happy pilgrims pass. Some details of route and stops have changed and the road to Dunwich Heath is still hanging on against the hungry sea. Mostly it’s the same.

“I began riding out to the Suffolk coast on moonlit summer Saturday nights in the far-off country of the 1980’s. Jez Hastings , editor and publisher of the tricycle fanzine ‘One too many’, suggested that this tradition could become a public event. On Sunday mornings races and rides, for larks are plentiful; how about one on Saturday night for the owls?

Jez ran a small wholesale business and his links with the bike-trade brought sponsorship from Mosquito whose location on the Essex Road has a pleasing psycho-geographical resonance. In 1992, the Dunwich Dynamo had it’s first edition.

At Eastway, the London Boroughs of Hackney, Waltham Forest, Newham and Tower Hamlets abut. The river Lee has been the divide between the old London County Council and Essex and before that Middlesex and Essex, and even earlier a peace line between the Danes and the Saxons. From Eastway you ride up Leyton High Road, the hill to Chingford and into the hanging glade of Epping Forest. After a wind through Moreton to dodge the A414, you join the Dunmow road at Fyfield. Unfortunately, many excited riders miss the first control at Leaden Roding where Mr. and Mrs. Knight and their extended family offer bread-pudding and coffee.
North of here on the roman line of the Dunmow Road the land is flat and the heavens wide. Early starters are not too late for chips in Dunmow.
Great Bardfield and Finchingfield are so cute they even look like picture postcards in the dark. The Hedinghams, last towns in Essex, feel out of commuter influence. At Bulmer Tye the road from Castle Hedingham sweeps into the highway for Sudbury. After the winding, rolling lanes of North Essex, this runs broad and level. If that’s not enough to spur you on, gravity soon will as the road begins – gradually at first – to descend.
Almost hidden in the rampant hedge is a big white sign that – for administrative convenience of putting all of Sudbury in one county – marks the borderline. The real crossing comes at the bottom of the hill where – after a shallow right-hand bend – the road bridges the river Stour and leaves the timber villages of Essex for the pink plaster of Suffolk. You feel the pattern of the country better without the distractions of the day.
Beyond the control at Great Waldingfield are the Suffolk prairies where once over-lit American cold-war bases are falling derelict; not all change is for the worse. Needham Market and the crossing of the River Gipping takes the route into its penultimate phase, silly Suffolk; silly is the old word for holy.
Ruined monasteries poke out of the woods and if the sun’s not up yet, it soon will be. Sometimes temperature inversions leave mist in the river valleys, while the fields between are sunlit. Foxes, rabbits and crows stare arrogantly at the bag-eyed townies.
From Coddenham to Pettaugh the way is once again pencil-straight. Does the hamlet of Stone Street commemorate a time when this was paved and all the rest was the kind of mire the 1990’s would call off-road?
If you ever ride this route alone, pick a line through Framsden and Framlingham and Bruisyard. For the tired sheroes of the Dunwich Dynamo, lulled by signs on every turn, this might call for too much thinking. They are sent along the A1120 whose sharp hills can make it a via dolorosa if the hot sun catches you still labouring.
A last phase running down behind Yoxford sees the soil turning sandy and the farmland drifting into heath. Too many bike rides end with an anti-climax, so the Dynamo promises a monster breakfast and, should you require it, a nice piece of cardboard on which to snooze away the morning.
For unconducted travellers the café on the beach opens at ten o’clock in Summer. Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia and 800 years ago was as big as London. A storm blocked the river which killed off the port. Over centuries what remained of the town was washed away by the relentless tides.
The Dunwich Dynamo is the only bike ride that gets shorter every year. In years when the event runs at a loss and I am tempted to jack in the task of promoting it, I look forward to the season when the finish route will have to be changed because the road on which it now runs has been washed away; five more years is the latest estimate.
The inexorable transformation of the coastline reminds us that the permanence of change predates the modern cult of ‘progress’ and will out-last it even if we do succeed in recreating a sustainable way of living.

  • Jez Hastings went to Islay,  watches birds, paddles canoes, contributes to the Washing Machine Post and is now Scottish.
  • Mosquito Bikes are still in the Essex Road, all their stock is nice.
  • I’m still dreaming of becoming a cyclist.
  • The Dunwich Dynamo has spawned many ‘tribute’ events. The Exmouth Exodus – which runs form Bristol in August – is highly recommended
  • The DD now has a useful alternative – the Dalston Dynamo  – which may develop into a Dynamo de l’avenir?

hit the beach

Anyone who rides a bike regularly has a journey that amounts to nothing; maybe a jaunt just long enough to make getting a bike out worthwhile, instead of walking or – for those of a more leathery disposition – the distance that can be ridden on an empty stomach without thinking of how to refuel. A long trip is just a lot of short ones run together. With careful preparation, good morale and deft use of the formula X x 0 = 0, any voyage can be reduced to the status of ‘nothing’.

“London’s best bike ride”

Jack Thurston

Play sound.

Anyone who rides a bike regularly has a journey that amounts to nothing; maybe a jaunt just long enough to make getting a bike out worthwhile, instead of walking or – for those of a more leathery disposition – the distance that can be ridden on an empty stomach without thinking of how to refuel. A long trip is just a lot of short ones run together. With careful preparation, good morale and deft use of the formula X x 0 = 0, any voyage can be reduced to the status of ‘nothing’.

The hardest thing about travelling on a push bike is the idea.

If you think 187 kilometres is a long way stop worrying about the idea and use the time and energy saved to deal with technical problems as they present themselves.

Never persuade anyone to ride the Dunwich Dynamo. If they do there’s certain to be a point on the trip when they wish they were at home in bed. When that moment comes you don’t want to be held responsible for their regrets. If you think somebody is under-prepared try and put them off. Alternatives are available  and there’s always next year; but – if they must go – support them. The chances are they’ll succeed and love it.

Reasons to ride the DD include…

  • It gets shorter every year.
  • If the weather is wet there’ll also be tail-wind.
  • Epping Forest means you exit Outer London quicker than on any other radius.
  • Moonlight doesn’t burn human skin or give you cancer.
  • You don’t have to get up early to join in.
  • There’ll be no tea-shops, folk museums or other visitor attractions open to tempt you off the road.
  • The darkness is dramatic but dawn comes early and from then until breakfast time the only other traffic on the empty roads is dopey pedal bikers.
  • However ill-prepared you are you’ll meet other pilgrims who are in a worse state than you.
  • It crosses soft country, no deserts.
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Salt water is antiseptic, cold water analgesic, the big, briny bath at the end is both.

There are many reasons to ride but the best is this…

Ride the Dunwich Dynamo and for the rest of your life – while you live in London, and keep a bike – you can glance at the clock as evening falls and ask yourself the question; ‘shall I ride to the Suffolk coast tonight?’ You never have to go, but your World will always be bigger.

DD XX
London Fields, E8
30th of June 2012
You’ll know when the time is right.

photo: adrain fitch

Back in the day there were nice ‘T’ shirts from Mosquito. This year, to celebrate TWENTY years of pointless lunacy it’s time to launch the Official Dunwich Dynamo product range.
Scientists are working on a luminous skin-cream that offers spooky zombie conspicuity in the dark then becomes a high factor sun-block after dawn, but what kind of fragrance and can it be rain-proofed?
In the meantime COMING SOON the Dunwich Dynamo Souvenir handbag. You know it makes no sense.